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What's the Point? (Part II) - The Missing Alphabet
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What’s the Point? (Part II)

brain-544412_1280Research from neuroscience has become very popular in the last few years and is used to do everything from sell insomnia medications to help students pass tests. New imaging techniques and electro-microscopy have allowed us glimpses into brains when they are at work and rest. Comparisons have helped us understand and sometimes prevent, cure or work with a number of illnesses and other challenges. Educational enterprises have been quick to use bits of research to support their techniques. To me, the point of all this new information is to learn how brains work most naturally and effectively and use that information to improve how we educate children. Some of the most important findings that support our own program, New World Kids, are the following:

 

The brain is creative. The brain is constantly changing. New experiences modify our perceptions, our concepts and even our long-term memories. Research finds that we can even create new neurons throughout the lifespan. The point: Creative thinking, learning, work and play should be the central activities of schooling.

Each brain is unique. Most of us start out with the same basic hardware but still very different from one another. Our genetic endowments; our social, cultural and natural environments; and our many interactions with our outside and inside worlds make us as diverse as our fingerprints. The point: Learner-centered education should be the rule and a top priority.

Our brains are essentially sensori-motor systems. All information—even written information, even digital information—comes in through our senses. Everything we do—even thinking and learning is connected to our movement, our actions. Technology should be seen as tools to extend the sensori-motor system and enhance creative work. The point: The more we engage the senses and incorporate meaningful movement into the learning experience, the more likely more children will be engaged and the deeper understanding is likely to be.

Stress damages the brain. The brain is both a social brain and an emotional brain. Our interactions with others matter. The point: If you want students to learn, avoid extreme pressures such as that that comes from high stakes testing. If you want students to learn, give them a nurturing environment, safe from ridicule and bullying—where their natural differences are celebrated, not demeaned.

Enrichment grows new neural connections. We now know that the more connections between neurons, the “smarter” we are. The point: Include (do not eliminate) activities that enrich the brain: visual art, music, drama, dance, sports, problem solving, interacting with other children and adults, reading high quality fiction and non-fiction, communing with nature, and so on.

The brain needs time to reflect. In order to consolidate learning, the brain needs time for students to stop listening to the teacher or otherwise gobbling up information. The brain needs a chance to listen to itself. In addition, the more students can reflect on their own best ways of thinking and learning, the more confident and self-directed they are likely to become. The point: Give students time to play and imagine. Ask them to think about what they like or don’t like about what and how they are learning. Keep reflective journals, sketchbooks, collections and portfolios. Invite children and their parents to become partners in the learning process.

Here’s a little song I wrote that was inspired by Einstein’s quote: “We are all born a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend it’s whole life thinking that it is stupid.”

Natural Born Brain

A monkey is a genius

Climbing in the trees

Jiving and thriving

Through the jungle with ease

 

(Chorus)

Einstein said it,

“You’ll never regret it

Use your natural born brain!

Your natural born brain!

 

A fish is a genius

Swimming in the sea

Swishing and darting

And flourishing with ease

 

(Chorus)

Einstein said it,

“You’ll never regret it

Use your natural born brain!

Your natural born brain!

 

But don’t judge a fish

If he can’t climb a tree

And for heaven’s sake

Don’t throw a monkey in the sea!

He can’t swim!

Not him!

 

Each child is a genius

You’ll never see again

Teach and reach him

Through his natural born brain.

 

(Chorus)

Einstein said it,

“You’ll never regret it

Use your natural born brain!

Your natural born brain!

 

Each child can master a domain…

Using his natural born brain…

Think what he might attain…

With his natural born brain…

 

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